The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books IV-VI

West End Library

The Intimidating Book Club: The Brothers Karamazov, Books IV-VI

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ fasts for forty days and forty nights, a feat that, in and of itself, requires at least some modicum of superhuman strength. What I find more extraordinary, however -- indeed, this is the most extraordinary, superhuman thing -- is when Jesus resists the temptation to "stick it" to his nemesis. "If you're as great as you claim," the devil essentially says, "turn these stones into bread."

I feel I would be hard-pressed to find an individual who would not take the bait, especially after having endured physically punishing circumstances.  After all, the term hangry is not merely a clever portmanteau, but a very real phenomenon that, when not managed properly or promptly satiated, finds its vent in ill-tempered behavior and petulant barbs. Yet rather than succumb to Satan's nasty trick, Christ invokes Deuteronomy. "Man shall not live on bread alone," He states, "but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" -- and I'd like to think He utters these words in a sedate, definitive, Zen elocution that leaves little room for pique, be it in His own heart or in the devil himself.

In Books IV-VI of The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky makes much ado about hunger and fulfillment, both physically and spiritually. Monks subsist on little more than bread and water and achieve some semblance of clarity, while Fyodor Karamazov, the louche, hedonistic patriarch of the Karamazov family, might languish spiritually but is unmatched in his literal lust for life and all of its glorious dissipation. Dostoevsky presents in this reading a panorama of hunger. What does it all mean?

Nineteen individuals gathered virtually via WebEx with The Intimidating Book Club on Oct. 26, 2021, to discuss this question, and many other observations found in Books IV-VI. For two hours, participants conversed energetically, and while we may never reach a consensus about what Dostoevsky truly means when it comes to hunger, it certainly sated our appreciation for good, sincere conversations about literature. Man shall not live on bread alone, indeed.

Learn more about The Intimidating Book Club here.
-- My Nguyen